What Happens Now: Some People Are Just Dickheads
'What Happens Now' is the title of Ferhat Dirik's new Ransom Note column. Ferhat is the co-owner of Mangal 2 Restaurant in Dalston. He was the man behind the mangal2 Twitter account before walking away from it all out of disgust for bots. His interests lie in kebabs, politics, current affairs and True Detective Season 1.
It started innocently enough. My wife was at an appointment, and so whereby we usually pick up our 3 year-old together from his pre-school around noon, this time I went solo. Before leaving she told me it was time for his weekly McDonald’s Happy Meal treat (I know, I know. One of his first words was “Habburger”. Send in the social services) and that we ought to stop by the local drive-thru on our way home. OK cool, on it. Dad mode. Pick him up. Take him Maccy D’s. Home and he shows off his new toy to his mum. So I picked him up and the teachers didn’t tell me he peed himself a tiny bit or had a fight with one of the older boys today, so I already felt victorious. I should note that this bad news doesn’t hit me every time we pick up the little guy, it’s only happened a handful of times, but it’s never nice to hear something awful when it comes to your child.
As always he wanted to linger around the playground before we got to the car. Testing me, testing how long until I pleaded with him to hold my hand and walk with me to the car. Well, not this day. I had a secret weapon: we’re gonna go get hamburgers! “Habburger!” he replied with delight. He offered his hand and I grabbed this olive branch of a gift, as we walked. We got to the car OK, no hiccups. We even got to McDonald’s OK and picked up the food, which I quickly unwrapped and handed over to him while he chanted “Habburger, Habburger!” like one of the kids in Lord of the Flies. I might as well had been handing him keys to a brand new Porsche when I gave him that burger – he was that delighted. It’s amazing what little things children adore, and how little enthusiasm us adults have for anything by the time we reach 25. I was in the car and at that very moment envious, but also happy for my son.
So there we were, ready to exit this mini retail park onto the main road to head home. I went to turn left when a few cars start driving by, not giving way. I waited. Where I aimed to turn (the left), there’s a traffic light 20 yards down. From there I planned to merge into the right lane and turn right at the lights. It turned red and all the cars – which were not slowing down to give me way – came to a stop. The cars start piling up and there was no space left for the next car to stop in front of me because a giant 'KEEP CLEAR' was there to protect me, my saviour, my knight. My turn. But wait – the next car stopped right bang in front of me, parked on the 'KEEP CLEAR'. KEEP fucking CLEAR, dickhead. It says it right there. The person clearly didn’t think this applied to her, and so her car stopped to the left of me, obstructing my exit. The worst part was, no more cars followed her. I tried to make eye contact with her so she'd nudge back a bit and I could come out, but she pretended I didn’t exist – avoiding any head movement in my direction when we were only one metre apart.
I could have waited there for the light to turn green or, as I eventually decided, I could slowly swerve my car to the right, creeping and peeping, to go around her royal highness so I could turn left onto the second lane. I slowly manoeuvred the car around the female Ray Charles, bit by bit, when a motorbike came whizzing towards me. I stopped the car from pulling out any further and he beeped his horn, and gesticulated wildly. He slowed down so that when I did pull out, he could speak to me. Mano a mano. I pulled out to the left and slowed down to tell him, “Man, I wasn’t going to pull out, I was creeping and peeping because that car stopped on the 'KEEP CLEAR', so…" He cut me off immediately.
“You, you need to look left and right, bruv."
I tell him, “I was looking left and right, I didn’t come out…”
“LEFT AND RIGHT, BRUV. LEFT AND RIGHT.”
He’s inched his motorbike closer to my window, trying to intimidate me, trying to provoke me to disagree so he could react violently. I, the argumentative prick, responded with, “Can you actually hear me? Are you actually listening? I told you that I wasn’t going to pull out, I was slowly creeping and peeping because that woman stopped in front of me when she shouldn’t have.” His response chilled me, broke me, hurt me even though I don’t know who he was, hell, I couldn’t even see his face because his helmet was still on and all I could see was a tall, muscular physique with tattooed hands.
“I will pull over to the side right there and smack you up, bruv.”
Everything comes to a halt at this stage. A million questions rushed my mind, like “Why did he just threaten me?” “Why won’t he understand I wasn’t trying to pull out?” “What the actual fuck is wrong with this person?” And then I remember: I am not alone in this car. I have my beautiful three year-old son with me and he’d just got a “Habburger”. The last thing I wanted to do was mentally scar him by having a fight with a madman on the road. My response to this psychopath’s threat was to reason with his human side.
“Man, why are you trying to fight me? I have my three year-old kid sat in the back.”
The next part sickened me. It’s the only reason this piece is being written, the only part that I couldn’t get over for days later. After I told him my child was with me, his response was to repeat, “I will pull over down there and smack you up.” By this stage I was beyond disgusted. Fear and adrenaline and aggression exited my body, and I was only left with disgust. I got out of the situation by saying, “Look, I didn’t mean to pull out OK? I’ll look left and right next time.” He tutted and shook his head as he then sped off faster than the speed limit to the left, whizzing past cars and putting others in danger, but hey, it’s only bad if he felt someone else put his precious life at risk!
I reflected on what happened. I am a man who often deals with confrontation and anti-social behaviour on a weekly basis due to my line of work (co-owner of a restaurant in Dalston, go figure). Just the other month I had to conjure all of my willpower not to thump a 20 year-old boy on the head after he lost his card outside our restaurant and screamed at me to “GO DO YOUR JOB! NOW!” in front of all my regular customers. He didn’t even apologise when CCTV proved he lost it himself, outside our establishment. Even him, I didn’t retaliate to. I am calm. But why did this situation leave me feeling vulnerable? Me, a man who fears very few people? It’s probably because my son was with me. I felt vulnerable because he could have witnessed me in a violent situation, potentially scarring him for life. I once saw a man being beaten to near death in Amsterdam when I was 17, and granted that’s much older than my son is now, but the incident has now left me feeling sick to the stomach every time I see a fight on the street (which thankfully isn’t very often).
I then reflected on what would happen if this motorcyclist and I were presented the chance to sit down and talk about what happened. What would I say to him? What would he say to me? How would it play out? Would he apologise? The answer is probably not. I understand he must have had heightened emotions during an adrenaline-fuelled superbike ride along the Essex riverside where I live, and his reaction was born out of that state of mind, but even when I tried to reason with him, to lure him into calm, he continued to threaten to attack me in front of my child. So I can conclude he was just a piece of shit.
I’m encountering more bad people on a daily basis. Truth be told, one of the reasons I left Twitter was because of a single follower I had – a guy I truly loathed who would go out of his way to tell me how unfunny I am, and try and tag me in things I had no interest in. Naturally I ignored him every time because he was crass and rude, but he continued to follow me, and in a weird sense showed signs of almost being obsessed with me. Or, the Twitter account anyway. I continued to ignore his disgusting words and replies to all of my tweets until one day he responded to a tweet about me being unfunny by saying my father sodomised my mother into conceiving me (biology isn’t his strong point) and an unfunny seed was planted which led to my eventual existence. I was very disgusted, I must say. Similar to the biker’s reaction. It was the day Twitter died for me, where I just about had enough. I never block people permanently on Twitter out of principle so I just left it there, but the darker side of humanity is never afraid to show its colours online. Or behind a motorcyclist’s helmet.
When did we become so cruel and unkind? Was it post-Brexit, when the downcast and ignorant within society realised they too have a voice, a power to shift laws and kickstart revolutions? Was it way before that, when government decided it’s OK to cut funding for care and community clubs, that this was an acceptable way of life and if you’re poor or disabled, well that’s just your fucking problem? You could argue that none of my shit experiences with people are related to government policy and Brexit. I don’t know. I do believe shifts in behaviour and attitude are an effect from top down, i.e. from government to the people. If the government doesn’t care about people, why should people in everyday life?
And then I thought, some people are just dickheads, and there will always be dickheads, and there always have been dickheads. And there are nice people out there, filled with compassion and care. And there always will be nice people. There always were nice people. And there’s a kid waiting for me to take him out of the car so he can finish off his “Habburger” at home.